Much like the title hero Ant-Man, Industrial Light & Magic is hidden in plain sight. The campus sits in North San Francisco, a nice coincidence given the setting of the film. When you arrive, you’re greeted by none other than Yoda, another famous pint-sized character. Inside there’s every sort of piece of memorabilia, prop, costume, or award you can imagine, and the halls are busy with editors, special effects gurus, and I’m pretty sure I saw Warcraft director Duncan Jones.
We’re brought into a theater where Peyton Reed, still spry and chipper as the time we spent on set months before, appears with co-producer Brad Winderbaum (who has been working on Marvel Studios films since the first Iron Man). The pair greet us and thank us for arriving and reveal that they’re not quite done with the movie – they require just a sound mix and color time on the final reel and then they’ll be locked. That said, they’re going to show us the first eight minutes of the film.
The picture starts and we see a giant S.H.I.E.L.D. room with the superimposed “1989.” A digitally de-aged Michael Douglas enters a room occupied by an also digitally de-aged Martin Donovan, John Slattery as Howard Stark, and none other than Hayley Atwell as an older Peggy Carter. Douglas is asked about the mission he was sent on and reveals he “took a detour through Russia,” and slams a small red vile down on the table – inside is the Pym Particle.
Things continue to get heated between Pym and the assembled trio leading to Donovan’s snyde remark about Janet, prompting Douglas to slam his face onto the table. If there was ever a theater of people that were going to cheer for that moment it was this one. After the running joke of Donovan’s face, it provided some much needed closure for us all that had been on set. Hank tenders his resignation and exits the building as the Marvel Studios title card pops on screen, making this just the second Marvel movie (after Guardians of the Galaxy) to feature a scene before the fan fare.
We then open on Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang, surrounded by inmates in prison and he takes a punch to the face from a giant of a man named Peachy. He takes another knock to the body but is then able to distract Peachy long enough to slug him in the face. There’s no animosity between them at all though, as this slugfest is simply the goodbye part for Scott, who is getting out of jail that day.
Rudd exits the prison with all his belongings and finds Michael Peña’s Luis waiting for him. The pair drive back into the city where Peña totally steals the scene in terms of humor. Luis tries to tell Scott about a new job he’s heard about, which he thinks would be perfect for him, but Scott says he’s done, he’s going legit. Luis can’t believe it and asks Scott what he’s going to do. Lang reminds Luis he has a master’s degree in electrical engineering, it should be a breeze. Smash cut to: Scott behind the counter at a Baskin-Robbins.
The scene plays out with a kid confused about what he can get at a Baskin-Robbins, first ordering a burger among other incorrect items. Following this brief exchange, the cameo I’d been waiting to see appeared – Gregg Turkington (mostly known as America’s funny man, Neil Hamburger) as the manager of Baskin-Robbins. He brings Scott into his office to inform that he knows his secret, because “Baskin-Robbins always finds out.” Even though he’s a fan of Scott’s stealing-from-the-rich schtick that landed him in prison for five years, he’s got to let him go, but he offers to let Scott take a free smoothie with him. Scott returns to Luis’s apartment where he tells him, and Luis’s other friends (including rapper T.I. as Dave and David Dastmalchian as Kurt) that he got fired. “Baskin-Robbins always finds out,” Peña repeats before trying to once again convince Scott to hear him out about this job that he’s heard about, which is where it cut.
My impression of this footage? It moves really fast, almost too fast. I certainly followed all the information from it, but I also have been covering this movie for years. I know what happens. Will people that aren’t familiar with what’s going on be able to keep up? It’s hard to say, but the pace is very quick, and perhaps when the entire film is presented it will make sense as a choice. There’s also the entire Baskin-Robbins scene, though it’s a very funny scene it feels like something that was plucked from a different Paul Rudd movie and placed in Ant-Man. The comedy from other Marvel Studios films has always felt natural and seldom in the jokey tone of actual comedy films, which is what this sequence appears to be aiming for. It works as a joke no doubt, but it also feels wrong. That first scene, however, what a treat.
Following this, Peyton and Brad showed us some other scenes for the film including when Peña is finally able to explain about the job he heard about to Scott, perhaps one of the funniest things we saw and a moment I won’t spoil.
Others included the first scene where Scott actually puts on the Ant-Man costume, which will be shown off at Disney parks as part of an Ant-Man 4D experience. In the sequence, Scott puts on the suit in the bathroom and after pressing the button tumbles down into the bathtub. Michael Peña enters the bathroom expecting to see Scott but doesn’t find him, so he turns on the faucet to run himself a bath. Rudd has to run from the pursuing waters and gets caught up in them before leaping out. Scott then falls through the crack of the floor as Michael Peña drops his pants. He falls into the apartment below where a small rave is happening, landing on the DJ table, and where we were able to see the film’s macro-photography at work.
“Sometimes when you frame Ant-Man in just a medium shot, well then it just seems like normal-sized guy,” Peyton Reed says of shooting the micro-hero. “It was something that I actually had the chance to talk to Stan Lee about, when he was doing the comics version, and he was saying that he always had to sort of ride hard on all the artists, you know, about keeping Ant-Man small in the frame and always putting other objects in the frame as points of reference for size, and then also trying to get that perspective correct about, when you’re low and you’re doing these overs of tiny Ant-Man, some guy about to stomp him with his shoe, and all of those things that were issues in the comics really came to life in the movie. I mean, they’re huge challenges, and that was part of the fun of it.”
Still caught on the revolving LP, Scott actually bumps the needle at the exact moment the beat drops, a cute moment. The scene continued to play out with him running from a mouse in the wall and being sucked into a vacuum cleaner, all of which looks incredible. Should the humor and action all blend together, this movie will work. Another bit that solidifes this is the completed scene of the previously-mentioned “fight in a suitcase,” which features a lot of great gags.
Another scene we were shown features more of the ant work in the film, one of whom Scott will become fond off and name “Antony,” called just “#247” by Hank Pym. Scott escapes police custory in the scene and rides the flying Antony off just past the pursuing Bobby Cannavale’s head, who sends squad cars out in full force to find him. There’s that blend of action and humor I mentioned, and it worked here.
One thing that is important about this film is the establishment of Ant-Man as a character in the larger MCU, and how his powers will work moving forward. Reed says that conversations have already taken place between himself and Captain America: Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo, the next film that Scott Lang will appear in.
“As we were doing the movie, and we were in post, and they were getting ready to head out to Atlanta to do Civil War, we had a lot of conversations and I actually wanted those guys to come in and look at our stuff, because there’s got to be a lot of crossover and I found myself getting extremely protective over the character of Scott Lang, and talking to the guys, to the writers, to the Russos, about, ‘Oh no, he wouldn’t do that. He would do this, whatever.’ We would have conversations, because it’s important, because there’s this continuity that has to happen in this universe, and it was really, really great, because I’ve known those guys for a long time, and it was really good to sort of bring them in, show them stuff, and see them get jazzed about stuff they’re doing, so I liked that about the process….And they have to try to out-do us.”
The film is also important for the larger connectivity in the MCU because it marks the cap of “Phase 2,” which began in Iron Man 3 and lead to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Both Reed and Winderbaum were asked about why they felt Ant-Man was the right movie to end the phase on instead of the right one to start phase three.
“I’ll tell you why I think,” Reed says. “I don’t know if it’s the official. I feel like, to me, I love the fact that this is an origin story, and who knows how much it was planned this way, but particularly coming after ‘Age of Ultron,’ which is just this massive, amazing, scope and spectacle, with a lot of characters, that now we kind of come back down and the arc of the movie is, Scott Lang is a real street level guy,. At the beginning of the movie you’re watching him get out of prison and sort of introducing Peña and you’re just sort of in this really small world, but then, through a series of circumstances, you see Scott Lang get pulled into this more Marvel world, this world where there’s all this stuff going on, where he had no idea what was going on. So, in that way, and what’s so good about it, is that he’s really the eyes and ears of the audience. He reacts in the way that you would probably react or does things you would probably do if you found yourself in these situations, so to me, I like the idea as a conclusion to Phase 2, that it comes back down to a really, sort of more contained character movie.”
Winderbaum echoed Peyton’s statement, saying: “It kind of defines the new status quo for the universe, like at the very beginning, the genie always felt like you could get it back into the bottle, and now, even for a regular guy, you’ll see it’s like even Scott Lang is being roped into the world. There’s an implication that like, no matter where you are, you’re being affected and your life is different now, which then kind of dovetails actually into ‘Civil War.’”
Most importantly for its connectivity to the larger Marvel Universe is a post-credit scene, and though both of them were tight-lipped about what will be shown after the main feature of Ant-Man, there’s definitely something.
“Did we put one?” Reed jokingly asks. “There might be something on the end of the movie. It’s all happening so fast. I can’t remember.”
Marvel’s Ant-Man will open in theaters on July 17.